Last week we began talking about how to determine which modes of communication an organization should utilize. With so many options like websites, e-newsletters, blogs, podcasts, bulletins, printed newsletters, brochures, and more, deciding among them can be a huge challenge. We looked at some of the factors to consider and evaluated several communication modes on those factors. Hopefully, it helped clarify the pros and cons of various modes and got you thinking about new ways you might be able to communicate more effectively.
It’s very common, particularly, for small organizations to get overwhelmed at the thought of trying to tap into all the new modes of communication available to us today. It’s challenging enough to get your existing publications, websites, newsletters, etc done on time with excellence. How can you possibly add more to your plate?
Well, in the last two years we at OurChurch.Com have added five new communications modes – an announcements forum, announcements email subscription, this blog, RSS feeds for the announcements and blog, and press release distribution. Here are some essential time-saving tips we learned along the way:
1) Use templates – There’s no need to create a new design every time you add a web page or send out an e-newsletter. Create a template and re-use. Design a new template only once every year or two.
2) Re-use design elements – If you’ve already got a template for your website, use the same general design for your e-newsletter, brochures, and other printed materials. Not only does it save time, but it also helps you create a recognizable identity for your organization.
3) Re-use copy – If you’re announcing something in the Sunday bulletin, website, e-newsletter, the local newspaper, and from the pulpit, there’s no need to write complete original copy for all 5 of these modes of communication. Start with the longest publication (probably the website) and then trim it down and tweak it for the rest. When OurChurch.Com launches a new service, you’ll find a lot of the same copy on our web pages, in the announcement that gets emailed, in the newsletter sent to our webmasters, and in the press release we send to news organizations.
4) Invest in a CMS – A CMS or Content Management System integrates your website, e-newsletter system, blog, podcast, and more into a single system. It takes care of all the overhead for these systems and makes changing the website, distributing e-newsletters, and posting a new blog article very easy and efficient. It requires a little more of an investment up-font, but it will more than pay for itself in time saved down the road.
5) Hire a Director of Communications – In my opinion, there’s nothing more important than having one person who is responsible for all of an organization’s communications. Without a director of communications information will be in one publication and not another, it will be updated in one mode and obsolete in another, and you’ll drive people crazy – both your audience as well as the people who are trying to get the information out. Your communication will be much more clear, consistent, effective, and efficient if one person receives, prioritizes, and manages the distribution of it. If your organization is small, you don’t have to hire someone new or make director of communications someone sole job responsibility. Just make sure your org chart is clear and your staff and volunteers know that before anything goes out it goes through the DoC and that person has the final authority on any changes.
6) Be and expert or get one – Poor, inconsistent use of a new mode is worse than not using it at all. If you are adding a new mode of communication you are not experienced with, either put in the effort to educate yourself or hire an expert. It’s amazing to me how many people think they can save a few bucks by running out to Best Buy for a copy of Frontpage and whipping up a new website in a week. That’s not a knock on Frontpage and I’m not trying to discourage anyone from doing something on his or her own for the first time. What I’m saying is you need to know the dos and don’ts of using a particular mode of communication. If you don’t, you’d be better off hiring someone to set it up for you.
7) Offer people options – Printing and mailing a 10 page monthly newsletter to the entire congregation may not be cost-effective, but you might choose to print the calendar and any feature articles that are on the website and make copies available in the back of the church to accommodate those who don’t have access to the web. Similarly, if you mail out a letter from the senior pastor on a regular basis you might be able to save some money by giving people the option to receive it electronically instead.
8) Promote and incentivize your preferred modes – You’ve got to inform people on their terms, but their terms don’t have to be set in stone. Try to steer people towards the modes of communications that are most effective and efficient for your organization. Mention your website and e-newsletter regularly on print communications. Put contests and games on them. Enter everyone who subscribes to the e-newsletter in a drawing. Be fun and creative.
9) Regularly re-evaluate – Every year or two, re-survey your audience to find out what modes of communication have been the most effective and which modes they prefer you use to communicate with them.
Following these tips, you can add new modes of communication with each taking proportionately less time and effort than your current modes of communication.
Does your first-hand experience bear out these suggestions? Got any other tips for people looking to expand their communications arsenal? Tell us about it by posting a comment.